COVID-19 Update: State Awards Nearly $10M in Federal Funds for COVID-19 Wastewater Surveillance, City Club Apartments Get $78.5M Bridge Loan for Detroit Development, and More

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
graph of coronavirus cases in Michigan
Courtesy of Bridge

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

State Awards Nearly $10M in Federal Funds for COVID-19 Wastewater Surveillance
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced Monday that $6,539,138 in grant funding and an additional $3,087,431 in laboratory equipment has been awarded to 20 recipients across the state to support a three-month pilot program to test for the COVID-19 virus in wastewater.

These pilot programs are being run by a network of 29 local health departments, 18 laboratories, and 125 university, municipal, and other partners across Michigan.

Launched in October, the three-month program supports local public health department efforts to coordinate with counties, universities, and other institutions across the state on COVID-19 wastewater testing programs. Local health departments will provide local interpretation and drive local mitigation efforts based on the reported results. These local efforts have the potential to be an early warning system for the spread of COVID-19 within a specific community or for coronavirus outbreaks on college campuses and at other densely populated facilities.

EGLE also has launched a webpage providing an overview of the COVID-19 wastewater surveillance pilot project. The page will also include sampling locations and testing data once it becomes available.

Funded from Michigan’s allocation of federal money under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the $10 million grant program targeted existing COVID-19 wastewater surveillance programs in the state to quickly establish a standardized and coordinated network of monitoring systems.

City Club Apartments Get $78.5M Bridge Loan for Detroit Development
Asia Capital Real Estate (ACRE), a global real estate private equity firm, has finalized a $78.5 million bridge loan to City Club Apartments for its City Club Detroit project in Detroit.

The loan, provided through ACRE’s latest debt fund “ACRE Credit,”marks the second loan ACRE and City Club Apartments have agreed to in recent months, following a $68.5 million refinancing of CCA Central Business District Cincinnati – CCA’s 294-unit multifamily property in Cincinnati – that was finalized in August.

“Detroit’s downtown has been growing rapidly in recent years and is showing strong fundamentals that support precisely this kind of luxury multifamily development,” says Daniel Jacobs, head of origination at ACRE. “Given our strong relationship with City Club, their strong track record as a locally based developer and promising early leasing velocity at the building, we are proud to play a role in the present and future success of this project.”

Located at 1501 Washington Blvd. in the city’s Central Business District, City Club is a six-story, 288-unit Class A multifamily building that currently is 95 percent complete. The mixed-use building also included 11,291 square feet of retail space and has already pre-leased approximately 40 percent of its units. Residents are expected to begin occupancy as early as December.

The property includes a full suite of modern amenities, including a 24-hour fitness center, 24-hour business center/conference room, clubroom with pool table, indoor/outdoor pool with hot tub, outdoor movie theater and event space, underground valet parking, and green building certification.

The building’s 288 luxury duplex and townhome units feature custom walk-in closets, high-end kitchens featuring granite countertops and islands, in-unit washer/dryers, private terraces/balconies, and a 410-space parking garage for tenant and public use.

FLAG Metro Detroit Reboots to Feed Hospital Workers
The Front Line Appreciation Group (FLAG) Metro Detroit is rebooting to help them hospital workers and local restaurants … again.

With rising COVID-19 cases and safety restrictions on indoor dining straining the finances of local restaurants, local hospitals and restaurants are again facing difficulties.

“Hospital workers have been working constantly since March and they’re exhausted,” says Laura O’Brien, one of six co-founders of FLAG Metro Detroit. “With the recent increase in cases, they’re under even more pressure. We’re already getting requests from hospitals for help. We want to support them as much as possible.”

That help comes in the form of meals prepared and delivered by local restaurants to hospitals in metro Detroit. Donations to FLAG Metro Detroit cover the costs.

“It’s a win-win,” says O’Brien. “Restaurants provide healthy meals while making a profit to help keep their businesses open. And hospital front liners get the nutrition they need to get them through their workdays.

“We know the fall and winter will be difficult for hospital workers and for restaurants, so we want to make an effort to help as we head into the holidays,” O’Brien says. “People in southeast Michigan have been very generous and supportive of their community hospitals and restaurants. It’s a safe and practical way for all of us to show our support.”

Since it began in March; FLAG Metro Detroit has helped 103 restaurants, raised nearly $378,000, and provided nearly 54,000 meals to front line workers at 43 local hospitals and 18 sub-acute care facilities. Donations to the group are generally in the $10 to $20 range. Any size donation is welcome.

FLAG Metro Detroit, a nonprofit organization, was started by a group of six local women looking for a way to help during the coronavirus pandemic. The other co-founders are Monica Toomey, Dani Gilman, Lindsay Pollina, Lauren Edgell and Sarra Brinjikji. Additional team members include Claire South and Linda Scheidemantel.

To donate, visit here or mail checks to: Community Foundation of St. Clair County Memo: FLAG Metro Detroit Fund Community Foundation of St. Clair County, 500 Water St., Port Huron, MI 48060. Do not send cash.

DOD-funded MSU Research Could Lead to Help for Rare Neurological Disorder
Most of the time, food poisoning is a quick, temporary condition. But in the case of campylobacter jejuni, the world’s most common food poisoning-inducing pathogen, it can lead to a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a special concern for U.S. military personnel, who are disproportionally affected by the disorder.

According to a 2009 case-control study, military personnel have an incidence of GBS that is more than double that seen in the general U.S. population; recent higher estimates of campylobacter infection show this paralysis is becoming more common.

Joint research from the University of Georgia and Michigan State University could help change that. Christine Szymanski and Linda S. Mansfield led a team that was recently awarded a total project budget of $2.2 million from the U.S. Department of Defense. Their research will focus on understanding how the human gut microbiome influences susceptibility to C. jejuni-triggered GBS.

“Our research could offer critical insight into how the human gut microbiota impacts susceptibility to GBS,” says Szymanski, professor at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and UGA’s Department of Microbiology. “If we can understand that, there’s potential for us to create new preventatives and therapies to help protect patients from GBS, including those most at risk who put their lives on the line in military service to the United States.”

Now that polio is nearly eradicated, GBS is the world’s leading cause of acute neuromuscular paralysis. It’s an autoimmune disorder that causes a person’s immune system to attack their own nerves. The disorder can cause a range of temporary and permanent symptoms, from muscle weakness to paralysis; some patients require a ventilator to breathe.

“Our nerves have fibers that send electrical signals when we want to move our bodies, and those fibers are wrapped in a protective layer of fat and proteins called the myelin sheath,” says Mansfield, a professor of veterinary medicine at MSU’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “GBS causes the body’s immune system to attack its own nerves. This causes the myelin sheath to weaken and exposes nerve fibers to the immune system’s attack. The fibers become damaged. This disrupts the body’s sending of electrical impulses, which causes symptoms like muscle weakness and paralysis.”

Fecal samples from GBS military and other patients will be used to humanize germ-free mice so changes in GBS susceptibility due to microbiome shifts can be observed. The researchers hope to prove that the gut microbiota alters GBS susceptibility because this will mean that they can use their new model to follow pathogenic mechanisms during new drug screens. Other GBS researchers also can use the model as a screening tool for existing and future therapeutics for this constellation of autoimmune disorders.

“We hope our work leads to better quality of life for those affected by GBS through improved diagnostics and therapeutics, as well as preventatives that will reduce the number of new GBS cases we see in the future,” says Mansfield.

The Henry Ford Announces Campaign to Build Business Back from COVID-19
The Henry Ford has launched Reactivate The Henry Ford Fund to address the projected $10 million to $20 million budget deficit from its nearly 16-week closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While we have not had a deficit in decades, we are projecting a crippling shortfall that will impact our ability to operate at the levels our guests have known and loved,” says Patricia Mooradian, president and CEO of the The Henry Ford. “We are looking to our community, those that have made this institution a part of their lives for years, to help us rebound. We are asking people to visit, purchase a membership or make a donation to Reactivate The Henry Ford Fund.”

The Henry Ford is the largest cultural destination in southeast Michigan. Its 250-acre campus requires a large labor force to maintain its 90 historic structures, a high school, and five venues. In April, the organization made the painful decision to furlough more than 80 percent of its workforce — 1,400 people — while continuing to provide their health benefits. Staff working remotely took pay reductions of 10 to 25 percent.

Sixty-five percent of The Henry Ford’s operating budget is earned revenue — admission tickets, memberships, signature and private events, food and retail purchases — nearly all of which was eliminated with the institution’s forced closure on March 13. The funds generated from Reactivate will assist the destination in continuing the programs and initiatives that require specialized knowledge, including the operation of historic rides and machinery, stewarding and maintaining 26 million artifacts, and providing expertise to guests, stakeholders and viewers of its weekly national television series.

A longtime supporter of The Henry Ford will match donations, dollar for dollar, so contribution will have double the impact.

The Henry Ford, reopening to the general public beginning July 9, is not owned by Ford Motor Co., does not receive public funding from a millage, and does not qualify for any direct CARES Act funding or governmental relief.

To contribute to the fund, visit here.

Henry Ford Health System Delivers Thanksgiving Baskets to Cancer Patients
Volunteers from Game On Cancer and the Henry Ford Cancer Institute’s Division of Supportive Oncology Services today will deliver family-style meals to 101 cancer patient households across southeast Michigan and in the Jackson area.

The meals, prepared by Continental Services/Forte Belanger, include Michigan salad, brioche roll, honey-glazed turkey breast with cranberry aioli, home-made stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes with cinnamon butter and frizzled onions, steamed green beans with garlic butter, and an assortment of individual pies and tarts for dessert. In addition to the meals, the recipients will receive a floral arrangement for their holiday table created by local floral artist, Laura Daluga of Department of Floristry in Detroit.

Because cancer patients have compromised immune systems, it is especially important to help keep them safe during the pandemic. With this in mind, volunteers delivering the food will utilize a touchless drop off method to protect the health and safety of the patients.

In Related News: Mark Dybis of Grosse Pointe Woods, donated 65 percent of his liver to his brother-in-law, Dave Galbenski on Nov. 25, 2019, the Monday before Thanksgiving 2019, at Henry Ford Hospital. Doctors told Galbenski, an otherwise healthy marathon runner, he would have died without it, from the rare autoimmune disease Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. This year, they’ll celebrate Thanksgiving via Zoom.

“In my mind, socializing during the holiday is less important than him being on this earth to experience that holiday,” says Dybis, who with his wife, author Karen Dybis, had immediately volunteered to donate. “It’s great to be with family, but if it’s a threat to life and limb to do so, we in the modern world have all sorts of alternatives to being face to face. There will be more holidays down the road.”

Dr. Atsushi Yoshida of Grosse Pointe Woods, surgical director of abdominal and liver transplantation, who participated in the six-hour double surgery, says those who step forward to donate – and those who register with the Secretary of State to join the deceased donor organ donation registry – are heroes. Henry Ford Health System created the Henry Ford Center for Living Donation a couple of years ago to focus specialized care on the donor – as well as the recipient – in these crucial procedures.

“Without them, these lifesaving procedures cannot take place,” says Yoshida. “As the leading liver transplant center in Michigan, we see this happen over and over with great results. It is a true modern medical miracle.”

ACG to Host Mingle Bells Networking and Charity Event
The Association for Corporate Growth is conducting its annual Mingle Bells Networking and Charity Event virtually for members and guests Dec. 1 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. via Zoom.

The event will raise money for THAW, the group’s 2020 ACG Detroit charity. In addition to providing a networking opportunity, the event will present prizes for the ugliest holiday sweaters.

ACG members and sponsors are free. Nonmembers can attend for $20. To register, visit here.

Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund Sale Goes Virtual Nov. 30
The Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund of Detroit’s more than 100-year-old annual tradition of Sales Day will take place virtually Nov. 30 to ensure it can deliver on its motto and mission of “No kiddie without a Christmas.”

The Detroit Goodfellows’ goal this year is to raise $1 million for the holiday gift package program as well as various other initiatives to benefit Detroit area children in need. So far, approximately $517,376 has been raised.

“Even with the trying times of 2020 and working through this pandemic, we are committed to the children of Detroit and anticipate and hope the community, as always, will come through and adjust to the changes for the greater good of the children,” says Daran Carey, president of Detroit Goodfellows.

Contributions can be made through Virtual Sales Day, online shopping, Giving Tuesday, and by sending in a check or by visiting here. A $35 donation typically covers the cost of one holiday gift box.

To take part in the Virtual Sales Day Fundraiser, supporters can make a donation of any amount at through Nov. 30. Donations are accepted year-round here. People can give to Detroit Goodfellows is by using Amazon Smile for online shopping. Checks also can be sent to: The Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund of Detroit, P.O. Box 44444, Detroit, MI 48244-0444.

All money raised goes toward the Detroit Goodfellows’ goal to help provide 30,000 holiday gift packages containing sweatpants, sweatshirts, socks, underwear, winter hats and gloves, a dental kit, toys, books, games, school supplies, and more for needy children in Detroit, Highland Park, Harper Woods, River Rouge, Hamtramck and Ecorse.

Additionally, girls ages four through nine receive a hand-dressed doll created by a community volunteer of the doll dresser program, which was created in 1924. Four-year-old boys will receive a stuffed animal as part of theirs.

Detroit Goodfellows will distribute the gift packages with the help of Detroit police from Dec. 7-20. Due to Covid-19, pickup locations have been streamlined down from seven to three. The packages will be provided to children whose names were submitted by public, private, parochial, and charter school officials. It is estimated that two out of every three Detroit public schoolchildren receive a Detroit Goodfellows holiday gift box.

Value City Furniture Surprises Family with ‘Homegate’
Value City Furniture recently surprised Detroit firefighter Mark Taylor, his wife Megan and their four children at their home in Chelsea with a ‘Homegate,’ a tailgate-at-home experience.

Taylor spent the year recovering from injuries suffered during a fire in 2019. After checking for people inside a vacant burning building, the roof collapsed. Taylor suffered burns on more than 60 percent of his body. This happened one year after his wife’s battle with cancer, from which she’s now in remission.

“Mark, Megan, and their four children are the definition of selflessness, bravery, and perseverance,” says Johnathan Schottenstein, president of VCF. “They are a family that no matter what comes their way, they don’t let life get them down. They give back to their community without blinking an eye, no matter what they’re going through. And because of that, when I heard their story, we decided we wanted to give back to them in a big way. It was an honor to celebrate the Taylors through this fun experience especially during a year when times have been challenging for us all; they are the true MVPs.”

Value City Furniture transformed the Taylors’ front yard into “VCF Stadium,” featuring the “VIP Lounge by Designer Looks” furnished with a VCF Designer Looks ComforTECH sectional and love seat and a foosball coffee table to sit back and relax while enjoying Sunday football. Outside the suite were custom yard games built on VCF Stadium’s “Turf Field,” and a concession stand representing the family’s favorite local cuisine. The ‘Homegate’ also featured special video messages from Mark’s fellow firefighters.

At the close of the event, Value City Furniture awarded Mark with an MVP trophy plus an exclusive VCF Designer Looks ComforTECH Echo Dual-Power Recliner featuring adjustable head and footrests, built-in Bluetooth speakers, hidden storage cupholders, wireless chargers, and more.

This year, Value City Furniture has planted its roots deep into their Michigan communities. The brand launched its new-concept VCF Designer Looks stores with six new locations opening across the state in November, three of which are in the Detroit area and nearby suburbs. Those openings led to more than 225 new jobs statewide.

Earlier, in April during one of the first COVID-19 surges, VCF also donated furniture to the Novi Suburban Collection Showplace Field Hospital break rooms including comfortable recliners, tables and chairs that health care workers of the field hospital could use for breaks.